If you have Millennial employees, and I’ll bet you do, you’ve got some of the brightest, most optimistic employees of any generation. Yet, why is it, far too often, I hear green industry business owners say that young people just don’t want to work?
As with most problems, the answer lies in the question. We must start by asking, how are Millennial employees different than other generations who have preceded them in the workplace? First, Millennials were born in a different timeframe, between the years of 1980 and 2000. We need to understand how they differ from older generations. Some of the ways they are different:
1. They had different kinds of parents than you had.
2. They experienced different types of world-altering crises.
3. They were born into technology.
These are just three areas in which they differ. There are plenty more. Let’s suffice it to say that they are just as different from your generation as your generation was different from other generations.
Much research and many books have been written about how Millennials are different and how we can engage them in the workplace. Let’s take a look at three ways in which we can engage them in their jobs and help them tap into their hidden potential, waiting to be used. It will make their lives more fulfilling, and your company more profitable.
1. Help them learn. In their excellent book, Generations at Work, Zemke, Raines and Filipczak report that, in their research, they discovered, “For Millennials just entering the workforce, the purpose of a job is to learn, gain experience, and position themselves for the next step.” They need your help in shortening their learning curves. Unlike Boomers (born 1946-1964) and Gen Xers (born 1964-1980), Millennials don’t want to learn by trial and error, figuring out their mistakes and celebrating when they succeed. They feel pressure to do it right the first time. They simply want you to answer all their questions before they start, so they can get it right the first time they attempt it. So be specific with your instructions and let them shine.
2. Tell them how they are doing. As a generation, Millennials have received constant attention, feedback and praise from teachers, parents, coaches and other adults. So when you or your managers don’t give them any, they have a tendency to think they have done something wrong. As a whole, it is easy for Millennials to take criticism personally. Don’t fault them for this trait; simply change your approach.
To maximize their productivity, green industry business owners and managers need to become really good at coaching them. When coaching your Millennial employees, be sure to use plenty of patience and flexibility. Remember, they don’t have all the experience and knowledge it took you so many years to accumulate.
Mixing in praise for what they do well with supportive suggestions about how they can do things better when they don’t get it ‘right,’ is a good formula for drawing out the very best from within them.
As I have always told my clients and the audiences I speak to, ‘Praise pays.’ The interesting thing about it is that it costs nothing to give. When it comes to giving praise to all of their employees, not just their Millennials, the major stumbling block I see for most business owners and managers is their own mindset.
Dale Carnegie said, “You can attract more bees with honey than you can with vinegar.” In the language of the 21st century, you can increase your Millennials performance and productivity by using more praise and less criticism.
3. Be approachable. Millennials are not comfortable with a company’s built-in barriers to cross-communication between upper management and themselves. Unlike Boomers and Xers, Millennials want the kind of work environment where there are open lines of communication and dialogue, without the fear of archaic taboos prohibiting such an exchange of ideas.
Take a good look at your small business and honestly ask yourself if you have the kind of culture that inhibits cross-communication between upper management and Millennials. This is typically the type of work environment where it is implied that people with seniority are superior to others who have been there for a shorter period of time.
This type of mindset inhibits your more talented and younger employees from being taken seriously when they try to contribute their ideas and solutions. Not to mention the fact that a company mindset exists which will prevent these talented and younger employees from being fairly promoted and compensated based on their skills, not their years of experience.
This last point might be a difficult one for Boomer owners to comprehend. The main reason is because the concept of promoting employees based on their seniority has long been a part of the work culture in which they matured or grew up in. It was modeled through the workplaces of their parents, and reinforced in their work environments as well. It was just the way that things were done.
The next step is to ask your Millennial employees what they think about your work culture, and how it can be improved, to create the kind of communication that makes it easy to approach upper management.
One tried-and-true way to increase cross-communication is to have—and keep—an open-door policy, where anyone can approach anyone else, regardless of position, to have some one-on-one communication.
Another approach is to create a true teamwork atmosphere, where it’s okay to ask for help, and it’s okay to give it freely and plentifully. This is the kind of workplace in which Millennials can thrive and grow.
One last suggestion is to hold an open meeting on the topic of, “How Can We Improve the Work Environment through Better Communication?” List all the suggestions generated, and prioritize which ones can be implemented.
Delegate and empower the appropriate individuals with the responsibility to take the necessary steps to make those changes a reality.
Why not take this article, share it with your Millennials, and have a discussion around the points described?
Take good notes, and then take action to implement their suggestions for adapting some of these strategies, so they will work in your small business to boost the productivity and loyalty of your Millennial employees.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Tom Borg is an employee performance and customer-experience expert who works with small businesses and organizations in the green industry to improve customer acquisition and retention. To ask him a question or to hire Tom, contact him at: 734- 404-5909 or tom@tom borg.com or www. tomborgconsulting.com.